Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Links to a Palaver About "The Wind Through the Keyhole"

Happy Halloween, all!

I just wanted to bring a couple of links to your attention.  I recently took part in a palaver with Bryan McMillan (author of the blog Dog Star Omnibus) about The Wind Through the Keyhole.  It was a lot of fun, some good points were raised, and he was kind enough to corral the whole thing and post it on his blog in glorious two-part format.

There'll be a part the third one of these days, too, but we're going to hold off on having that part of the palaver until he's finished reading his way through the rest of the series.

Go check out the first two parts, though, and have a nose around the rest of his blog, too.  He's been reading his way through the entirety of King's canon, and blogging about it along the way.  Great stuff!


  1. Interesting conversation, and more to the point, I think I have the solution to the your problem with the Tim Stoutheart narrative, I mean the way it's told in relation to Roland's character.

    The thing is it's wrapped up in my take on the whole series, i.e. not a multi-verse with a magical Tower at it's center, rather just a story which has come to life on the fictionalised version of the author writing through some fluke or maybe the power of his own belief in the characters.

    Now no one has to accept that premise and I don't ask that they do. I do believe however that once you accept the premise it helps make sense of the nature of Keyhole.

    Kev Quigly at Charnel House has this to say about Keyhole:

    Quigly: Keyhole is meant to function as a Major Arcana Dark Tower novel, sequenced between Wizard & Glass and Wolves of the Calla...The fear with an interstitial – or “midquel” – book is that it can potentially feel too constrained, its storytelling hampered by the need to connect the events before and after. Keyhole, contrarily, feels fresh and wide-open, attaining its own unique flavor among the Tower books while meshing seamlessly with the fabric of the series. Most importantly, it manages to retain the quest structure of the first four novels and also subtly underscores King’s obsession with the nature of fiction in the latter books, providing a necessary bridge between the two halves of the series. That actually may be the most apt word to describe The Wind Though the Keyhole: necessary...This is part of the reason why The Wind Through the Keyhole is a necessary book: the shift from the Oz fascination of Wizard & Glass to the Magnificent Seven/Harry Potter/Doctor Doom/’Salem’s Lot onslaught in Wolves of the Calla needed a better bridging element. If read as King intends, in between those two books, Keyhole mentally and emotionally prepares the reader for these fictional intrusions on reality.

    In other words, Keyholes purpose is to function as a transition book between the relatively straightforward adventure narrative of book 1-4, to the meta-fictional narrative of the final three tower books.

    I'll go even further, though we might not realize it, Keyhole is the book where the characters begin to take on a life of their own. In other words, based on the characters come to life on author viewpoint, this is the book where the characters actually "do" start coming to life on the fictional version of King.

    Think of them as pictures in a fairytale book that begin to stir and finally break out of their frames, all because of the power of one writer's belief, or at least something like that.

    Was this theory any help?


    1. It just occured to me that the idea layed out in the original post above could use some elaboration so here goes.

      The key to Keyhole (if you will) lies in the narrative structure of the book itself.

      As you pointed out, none of it is consistent with any of the character's knowledge, with the possible exception of Gabriele Deschain, although how come to think of it, how much does she know?

      ...More to the point why am I even wondering about the knowledge of ink on paper?

      Anyway, the point remains the same. In the strictest sense, the narrative within a narrative has nothing to do with any of the character's knowledge. It is it's own third person omniscient. Why should it be though if, as you say, it;s major continuity flaw? The reason is because it fits with the idea of characters in a book coming to life on their author, even if only a fictionalized form of King.

      In other words, when the Stoutheart story break the rules of narrative convention, it marks a turning point from straightforward narrative to meta-fiction. It's the moment that, within the fiction, the characters become real and not just characters in a book.

      I hope this is clear as possible. One of the hazards of lit. crit. is getting so theoretical that you lose contact with the way people normally read books. Occupational hazard I guess?


    2. "The reason is because it fits with the idea of characters in a book coming to life on their author, even if only a fictionalized form of King."

      Chris - I quite like that, actually. That's a very satisfying explanation for me. I wish there'd been a wink-at-the-camera, tho, in the text itself (and there very might well be; I've only read it the one time), or King hinted at this in an interview or something. (And, again, he very well may have.)

      I was hoping by posting the question to the forum, the question might have gotten back to the man himself. But, no luck, so far. (I guess it's only been a day, ha - maybe I should be more patient and look at it like a letter sent back to Europe from the New World, which is almost an apt metaphor for communicating to Sai King via the forum. The journey is long and fraught with peril.)

    3. That's definitely an interesting way of looking at the series overall, although I think the texts themselves argue more for the idea that "Stephen King" is merely a conduit through which certain energies -- of what King calls "the White" -- are moving.

      If not, though, what a marvelous armor against cries of "plot hole!" Sai King managed to craft for himself...

  2. Well, thanks again.

    The most interesting thing for me is I don't think any of this was a conscious decision on King's part. I don't even think he was giving much thought to the form or narrative structure of the book, I think it's a case of an imaginary castle that makes itself.

    I'm not saying stories are living things, just repeating King's own opinion that stories are like fossils you uncover rather than thoughts you deliberately think.

    Here, I think we're edging more toward the Jungian, scientific view of imagination.


  3. I do think it was unintentional. I like what you say - for a series that comments explicitly on meta-fiction, yours is a satisfying explanation for the narrative discrepancy in the central tale.

    But, I feel in this case, we are providing an explanation because one is missing in the text itself. I just wish King or one of his editors had thought to bring it to his attention so he could add a sentence or two to clear it all up or at least provide text support for the theory.

    (Again, it very well could be in there - something for me to hunt for, when I eventually re-read!)

    1. I think we are DEFINITELY providing an explanation where one does not otherwise exist. Which is fine; as long as a sensible explanation can be reached, based on evidence present within the text, I have no problems doing so. But, like you, I do wish King had made it unnecessary to do so.

      I imagine there are narrative discrepancies throughout the series. There certainly are if you take the original version of The Gunslinger into consideration. Hell, for a series written over the course of five decades, it'd be a miracle if there were none.

      All the more reason to hope King follows through on his desire to revise the entire series at some point. When and if that happens, I'll be interested to see if he maintains the current numbering structure, or if he folds The Wind Through the Keyhole into the series proper somehow.

  4. Lotsa great comments here for me to pore through, but it's going to need to wait until I'm a bit more awake. I'm up so too-late that it's bumming me out.

    One quick thought: this topic, which is a fascinating one (no matter what the SK message board seems to think!), makes me think of the complex reactions I had to Prometheus this summer. There are huge sections of that movie that patently do not work on a storytelling level, and yet, I found that I loved the movie. I accepted its flaws; I didn't feel the need to make them go away, I just loved the movie for what it did well, and managed to not care overmuch about what it did poorly. That happens to me sometimes, and then other times, some flaw will cause me to give up on a movie utterly.

    The scenario with TWTTK is a lessened version of the same thing. I don't think its problems are anywhere NEAR as severe as those of Prometheus, though.

  5. I could be wrong, but I think a major factor of how any book or film is received depends on the kind of viewpoint you bring to reader or viewing.

    Everyone has their own individual point of view that determines likes and dislikes. Granted a certain amount of overlap, for the most part no two people read the same LOTR for example.

    Here's a better example, Roger Ebert views film as an "Emotional Medium" saying "It's not a good medium for fact" (documentaries?).

    My view on the other hand is the exact opposite. I'm convinced rational thought goes into viewing any movie, else how could you know if it's good or bad? Ebert judges a film precisely by what emotions it triggers in him, I judge a movie by the contents of it's story on both a thematic and psychological level.

    Here we see two different approaches, yet each determines what makes a film a success from both our perspectives.

    My question then is whether certain viewpoints don't set a limit on what any one person is capable of "getting" from a book or film? I don't know, maybe I'm rambling.


    1. If I am understanding you correctly, (and apologies if I get this wrong) you're describing the art of projection, right? i.e. we are co-authors of the stories we see, depending on what we project upon it/ our own experiences determine how we interpret, etc. I have more than sympathy for this viewpoint; I think it's among the most important things we need to keep in mind when evaluating anything, from news to art to sunsets, etc. I forget who called it "the free play of signs and signifiers," but I remember that phrase from Intro to Lit Study 2... somewhere.

      I try and separate the two, when evaluating something, as best I can. In the same way a truly-objective-documentary can never really be made (simply by observing something, we change it on a quantum level; how much more-than-quantum we do just by watching it or pointing a camera at it, etc.? Not to mention visual/ musical cues, etc.) a truly-objective "review" of anything is damn-near-impossible. But, I also feel when it comes to a movie or a film, we must ultimately bow to what is actually there. That has to be our "base;" the rest is just interpretation. Not INVALID interpretation, of course, but that's the part we-the-viewer provides vs. what the author / filmmaker brings for-us-to-view. So, we CAN objectively point to something and say "right or wrong, like or dislike, we can all agree that x follows y in this book/ movie."

      If we couldn't, whew! What a world. I imagine that's Todash. :-) Or how Mister Mxylplyx views the world.

      Certain artists are adept at playing around with these perceptions and our interpretations, God bless them!

      Here, though, in TWTTK, what I think we have is King making a simple narrative mistake. And I don't harsh him for this; hell, even Kubrick left the shadow of the helicopter in the first scene of The Shining, and although there is a school of thought that says this was deliberate - to draw our attention to the construction/ artifice in play - I have to go with my gut and say it was just a mistake. Only my opinion, of course. It's always dangerous for me to assume an author's intention, but just my gut instinct; I'd be happy to find something in the text to support the idea that these inclusion of details is the harbinger of the "meta to come" in the series.

    2. p.s. Hope this doesn't come across as hair-splitting or anything - I'm actually trying to agree with you and just riffing on story-interpretation/ lit-analysis in general.

    3. My take on this is that ... it's complicated. Really, REALLY complicated. Because ultimately, no two people are completely alike, and therefore nobody really reads a book in exactly the same way as anyone else. Or views a movie, etc.

      I imagine that the vast majority of people ingest art both emotionally AND logically, with their personality determining the mix of the two. For some people, it might be 87% logic and 13% emotion, but I suspect that for most people, emotion largely rules.

      It gets more complicated. Each of us probably approaches each individual piece of art with a different mixture, and we won't necessarily be consistent across multiple goes at the same piece of art.

      I'll watch Skyfall at least three times this month, I bet, and the first time, it'll probably be with a 90% emotion, 10% logic mix. The second, probably 60%/40%; the third, 20%/80%. That's probably roughly equivalent to what I did with the several movies I watched multiple times this summer. It isn't a conscious process unless I make it one, which I typically don't do unless I'm actively planning a post about the topic at hand.

      This all may or may not make me sound like I'm in line waiting to get fitted for my straitjacket, but I think there's a lot of truth to it one way or the other.

      Which is a long way of saying that I mostly agree with you both!

      However, it seems to be that there HAS to be some sort of baseline in terms of what is and what isn't considered to be good art. Example: I recently reviewed Creepshow III, and I simply cannot accept that there would be ANY definition of "good art" that could include that movie. Only a madman would argue for that being an objectively good piece of art.

      How, then, does one make the distinction?

      I don't have an answer for that one.

    4. That's actually pretty damn close, and here let ME apologize for not being clearer.

      My point was simply this. I'm convinced movies and books can be logically judged on whether they're good or flops in terms of quality, presentation of theme etc., and that most people agree on which films are great and which bad.

      Example: The Mortal Kombat movies? Bad. Children of Men? Classic.

      I think stories, whether on page or screen have an objective nature about them, i.e. meaning you can tell when a book or film is bad or good.

      I just wondered if it's possible for a person's point of view to bias them in one sense or another so they might not like Children of Men for whatever reason or they don't "get" a film like Dark City.

      I hope THAT was clearer, I was just wondering out loud is all, sorry if I didn't make sense.


    5. I'm with you in theory, although I suspect that WAY more people than you think would probably say the Mortal Kombat movies are good ... AND that Children of Men is bad.

      Most people who watch with an eye toward being logical would probably not be in that boat; but I think that only a minority of the populace watches movies that way. That might be my cynicism coming out, though; I don't know.

      It's very murky waters we're treading through, and in the end it always has to result in someone saying to someone else, "I know better than you do what is and what isn't good, objectively-speaking." And that is dangerous territory to enter. But I've been known to do it from time to time. In that review of Creepshow III, for example, I absolutely walked right up to the point of saying "If you like this movie, then your right to have an opinion is revoked."

      And who the hell am I to say something like that?!? I tried to say it with some wit and humor, and to suggest it moreso than outright state it, but let's have no illusion: that's what I meant.

      Although, in contemplating it for a moment, I don't actually mean that I'd revoke someone's right to have an opinion. I just mean -- LITERALLY mean, that is -- that if a person's taste in art is such that they would want to me to actually believe Creepshow III is good art, then I feel their definition of "good art" is so far removed from my own that it puts to an end any need I might feel to place stock in that person's definition. It's me giving myself the freedom to permanently ignore that person in terms of them being someone whose opinion should matter to me.

      And yet, even then, depending on who we were talking about, I'd be willing to give them an opportunity to convince me I was wrong. It's unlikely to happen, but possible.

      Are we overthinking this? I know for a fact that some people would say we are. For me, though, a major part of the reason I began blogging is because I am fascinated by my own responses to art. Why do I like this, and hate that? Why did I once love this, but now do not? Why does it take me half a dozen listens to this album before I enjoy it? Why am I drawn to one thing, but not the other?

      It's all self-analysis, in the end. I try to not pluck on those strings too hard (I'd rather try to write something that theoretically can be enjoyed by others), but it's always lurking behind most of what I write, here and elsewhere.

  6. Well, I think you're right about one thing, most people might not bother much about which film is better than the other. The reason being, and this is important, life matters to them a lot more than art.

    In that sense, at least, I think they might be smarter than book or film people.

    I say that as someone who grew up a part time barrio boy and got watch people break their backs keeping a roof over their head so maybe I'm biased.


    1. Engaging with art on that level definitely requires the leisure to do so. For that reason, I do my best to never look down -- if "looking down" is even the proper way to think of it -- on people who enjoy movies, etc., purely as entertainments. For a lot of people, it is sheer escapism; nothing wrong with that, either.

      Where I get hung up is in dialoguing -- or trying to dialogue -- with people who don't fit that bill, and yet who will try their damnedest to tell me that Transformers is great filmmaking, or that Adam Sandler is the greatest actor of his generation. Those people exist, and I loathe them. Them, I demonstrably DO look down upon.

    2. Just saw this on the ol' facebook Dark Tower page:

      "A note from Robin Furth, author of the revised and updated Dark Tower: The Complete Concordance (out today):

      "Although I love all of the Dark Tower novels, The Wind Through the Keyhole has a very special place in my heart. Part quest narrative, part autobiography, and part fairytale, Wind links three eras of Mid-World history and two very different parts of Roland Deschain’s life. Unlike other
      Dark Tower novels, The Wind Through the Keyhole is composed of three separate narratives. Although in the first tale we meet up with our beloved ka-mates, Eddie, Susannah, Jake, and Oy, In Wind, our tet’s search for the Dark Tower is but the frame story for a much more personal tale. Like Wizard and Glass, much of The Wind Through the Keyhole focuses on one of Roland’s youthful adventures. Yet unlike Wizard and Glass, this autobiographical section is actually narrated by Roland. Hence, we gain much deeper insights into Roland’s mind and world.

      The Wind Through the Keyhole is a slimmer volume than the previous four Dark Tower novels, but its size belies the huge amount of information it holds. Hence, to add it to the new Concordance was a gargantuan task. In essence I had to treat each of the three tales as a distinct novel, each with its own settings, central characters, and dialects. To make matters more interesting, Wind’s particular approach to storytelling meant that I had a lot of fascinating information to add to existing entries. A good example of this is the Covenant Man, who is the villain of the fairytale “The Wind Through the Keyhole,” and yet is also another incarnation of Roland’s longtime enemy, Marten Broadcloak/Walter O’Dim. Upon first reading, it seems quite plausible that Marten/Walter—who is Roland’s contemporary—could also exist in the fairytale world of once upon a bye. Yet the Covenanter also serves a subtler purpose. By casting a contemporary figure into a story of long-ago, young Roland exposes the treacherous forces that have been undermining the gunslingers, and destabilizing Mid-World, for centuries."

      So it SEEMS she is confirming the middle section is told by Roland... hmm.

    3. Interesting... I'm just not sure I think that makes any sense at all.